The best baseball player on the planet is not happy. Entering the last year of his contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, first basemen Albert Pujols has set a February 19th deadline (first day of Spring Training) for the Cards to negotiate a new contract. If Pujols and the Cardinals do not reach an agreement, Pujols will test free agency next off-season. The 31-year-old Pujols does not want any distractions during the season and will not accept a trade to another other team. With over $50 million coming off the books after this season, could the Mets be a potential landing spot for Pujols?

Enterng the 2012 season, the Mets will only have the following financial committments*:

Player Salary
J. Santana 24
J. Bay 18.25
D. Wright 15.25
Total 57.5

*Francisco Rodriguez has a $3.5 million buyout which will probably be exercsed while Angel Pagan, Sean Green, Mike Pelfrey, Dan Murphy, Fernando Nieve, and Jon Niese are arbitration eligible. Met fans already know that Jose Reyes is in a contract year, so that situation is worth watching.

Let’s just say that the Mets will spend $8 million on their arb-eligible players, exercise K-Rod’s buyout and give Reyes $14 millon per season. That would set the team’s 2012 payroll at $83 million. The Mets normally have payroll between $120-$150 million dollars so the team will have some financial flexibility.

Enter Pujols.

Let’s just put Pujols’ past production in historical context. In ten full-seasons, Pujols has never hit fewer than 32 home runs or drive in 103 runs. In nine out of his ten big league seasons, his on-base percentage has been over .403. Pujols currently has 408 home runs, putting him on pace to potentially break the all-time home run record. Adding him into the middle of the Met order would create one of the scarier lineups in the game…

1. Jose Reyes
2. Angel Pagan
3. Albert Pujols
4. David Wright
5. Jason Bay

Any team who does not have a stalwart at first base will likely make a run at Pujols. But the competition for the slugger will not be as hotly contested as one thinks. The Yankees, Angels, Red Sox, Tigers, and Phillies have first base occupied, so the Mets won’t get into a bidding war with the big spenders. The Cubs and Giants are potential competition for the Mets, but the Mets have more payroll flexibility. A-Rod’s 10-year, $275 million contract that he signed at 32 serves as a bench mark for Pujols. Any team that wants him will probably have to replicate this contract.

Does Pujols even want to come to New York? It’s probably the only question that needs to be asked after the Yankee/Cliff Lee drama. Even with the biggest offer on the table, Lee turned down Yankee dollars to join the Phillies. Would Pujols do the same to the Mets?

There are a ton of variables in play when it comes to a player of Pujols’ caliber. Cardinal ownership would never live it down if they let Pujols slip away and I can’t see them letting that happen. Albert Pujols is St. Louis. But if they don’t reach a deal in the next two weeks or so, then all bets are off. Plus, the Wilpons are dealing with all of this financial turmoil, so who knows what will happen going forward. Expect the Mets to get involved if the Cards drop the ball.